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Jacques Dallaire

Élégant, by Jean Dallaire (1916-1965)

(with permission from La Galerie Klinkhoff, Montreal)

The Offensive

I was delighted that so many of you read my last post and left a “like.”  The tax I wrote about is mostly trivial, but it is a step in the wrong direction.  Moreover, in an article posted below, Madame Marois claims that separation from Canada is an emergency, which is another step in the wrong direction.  She bemoans the fact Quebecers have “two levels of government” and states that the solution is independence from Canada.  Allow me to quote Madame Marois:

“Marois told a weekend meeting of Parti Quebecois delegates that it is “very important to explain” the benefits of making Quebec a country, which include the province making its own decisions and ending the duplication of two levels of government.” (Feb. 11, 2013)  
 

To my knowledge, it happened the other way around.  Quebec, not Canada, created a government within a government (i.e. a factious government).  For instance, Quebec failed to sign the patriated constitution (1982).  That gesture alone can serve as proof that the government of Quebec had initiated a separation from Canada and had done so without first obtaining from the people of Quebec a mandate allowing it to start negotiating the terms of a new relationship with Ottawa.  There had been a referendum, but indépendantistes  had not obtained sufficient votes.  So, in 1982, the government of Quebec acted as if Quebec had separated from Canada, when such was not the case.

Ironically, in the 1960s, at the time the Quiet Revolution took place, Quebecers were lulled into thinking they would inhabit a welfare state, but they are now paying taxes to “two levels of government” because its own government put the cart before the horse.  It acted prematurely.  Moreover, because Quebec did not sign the patriated Constitution, there are limitations on the validity of Quebec’s health-insurance card.  When I lived outside Quebec, my health-insurance card was valid from coast to coast.

“The latest outbreak of separatist grievance-mongering comes in the form of a new PQ-funded report that claims Ottawa is allowing Anglophone provinces to commit “soft ethnocide” on French speakers around the country. “We’re reminding people of the evolution of Canada when we systematically eliminated French at the start of the 20th century,” said the lead author this week.” (Feb. 5, 2013)

The School Problem

Regarding the “soft ethnocide” Madame Marois is imputing to Ottawa, need I remind Quebec’s Premier that, traditionally, it has been difficult for French-speaking Canadians to separate language from religion.  They had been taught that language and religion were inextricably linked.  So the reason why French-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec could not receive an education in French has little to do with resistance on the part of English-speaking Canadians and Ottawa.  It has to do with the fact that provincial governments do not fund denominational schools.  Such schools are private schools.

I saw my very own father rebuked and labelled a “communist,” because it was acceptable to him to separate language and religion, or faith and state.  Fortunately, matters changed when Pierre Elliott Trudeau became Prime Minister.  It is now possible for French-speaking Canadians to be educated in French outside Quebec and English-speaking students are eager to enter French-immersion programs.  In other words, there is no “soft ethnocide” of French-speaking Canadians residing outside Quebec, at least not yet.  But there may be an ethnocide if Quebec continues to act recklessly.

Tuition-free education

Let me address this matter once again.  In Quebec, beginning with the Quiet Revolution, the government wanted to give students whose parents had not attended a university a chance to do so.  Students were therefore spared a measure of screening.  It is relatively easy for Quebec students to enter university.  Besides, their tuition fees are half the amount Canadian students pay outside Quebec.  The Quebec government cannot afford what the Parti Québécois peddled so Madame Marois would defeat Jean Charest’s federalist government.  If a referendum were called in the near future, students would not support indépendance.  As for other Québécois and Quebeckers, especially the elderly, they would remember that they are footing the bill so fees paid by students would not rise.  Someone has to foot the bill and, among those who do, too many are living below the poverty line.

The Quiet Revolution took place fifty years ago.  May I suggest therefore that the time may have come for Quebec universities to put into place more selective entrance requirements.  May I also suggest that it is entirely possible for intelligent and hard-working students to obtain a university degree even if their parents have not attended a university.

My father is an intellectual, but my parents did not attend university.  Yet, on the basis of an entrance examination, I earned myself a free education.  Furthermore, when I entered graduate school, I did so at the doctoral level and by invitation.  In my opinion, if a  student’s performance warrants financial help, financial help should be available, as it was for me.

About Quebec universities

I took courses in musicology at a Quebec English-language university.  The department of music had three full-time professors and twenty-two chargés de cours (part-time teachers).  It needed part-time teachers because students were learning to play different instruments, but three vs twenty-two seemed too wide a discrepancy.  Besides, other departments also hired more part-time teachers than full-time teachers.  As a result, many Quebec university teachers have left Quebec and teach in other provinces.  That is a loss for Quebec.  In fact that is not-so-soft ethnocide perpetrated by the Quebec government.

Conclusion

It seems to me that in the interest of peace, growth, and the pursuit of happiness, Madame Marois and her Parti Québécois, should revisit their decision to separate from Canada.  In particularly, they should assign members of the Office québécois de la langue française, OQLF to more positive tasks.  The time has come for a more significant number of Québécois to speak their language correctly.  Québécois do have a territory and that territory is their culture.  Asking restaurant owners to replace WC by toilettes on the door to a restaurant’s facilities is petty in the utmost and it threatens French-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec.

For forty years, I lived in complete harmony with my English-speaking neighbours as well as my English-speaking colleagues.  Yes, I was overworked, which put a premature end to my career as a university teacher, but no one ever forced me to speak English or got upset if I used French words.  On the contrary!

Moreover, the time has also come for Québécois to be taught the history of their country.  They need to know that French-speaking Canadians were not harmed by Britain.  In 1763, France could no longer afford New France so it chose to retain Guadeloupe as a colony rather than New France.  However, under the new régime, French-speaking Canadians kept their farms, seigneuries, religion and their language.  Moreover, in 1774, the Quebec Act put French-speaking Canadians on the same footing as English-speaking Canadians.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in a bilingual or trilingual country.  But it is very wrong to foment dissent and unnecessary conflicts.  Madame Marois is calling for an offensive, but I am calling for all Canadians to respect one another.  I am calling for peace, growth and the pursuit of happiness.

© Micheline Walker
16 March 2013
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